Since January, I’ve been inhaling coffee and painting my calendar red, as this semester has been the most insane yet: by May, I will have written 210 screenplay pages, produced over 120 minutes of the dramatic scripted TV miniseries CON, and will have met several career milestones, such as getting my first feature assignment, being nominated for a college television Emmy, and graduating from USC’s Writing for Screen and Television program (also known as the Writing on Zero Hours of Sleep program) and to top it all off still maintain some semblance of a social life.
On top of this I work two jobs — one at Verve (the Literary and Talent Agency that reps Meg Lefauvre, Colin Treverrow, and other amazing writers and directors) and the other as a Resident Assistant in Webb.
So if you see me on campus and I’m running to one thing or the next or typing furiously it’s because I’ve got to hit deadlines so maybe, just maybe, I can get some sleep — but it’s all worth it as I get to work with some of the greatest filmmakers at USC and do what I love.
which is wearing trenchcoats in 80 degree weather
A Snapshot of My Week
Saturdays and Sundays. On a typical weekend when I’m not on duty as an RA, I spend 20+ hours on set, helping keep things moving on schedule and make sure all the logistics I put into place with the help of our amazing producers and AD’s throughout the week (location contacts, crafty orders, shooting schedule, etc.) happens smoothly. On our show, we have a 1st AD who is in charge of the crew, a line producer help take care of the nitty gritty details, and us executive producers take care of all the paperwork on and off-set and deal directly with the Trojan Vision and film school administrators (and drive the golf cart!)
yes. all of the paperwork.
I love being on set, and seeing my words come to life weekend after weekend is amazing — our director and cinematographer teams for each episode do an amazing job bringing their own vision to each scene, and it’s inspiring to watch them work alongside our talented cast.
My co-showrunner Jen Enfield-Kane and I switch off weekends, and this past weekend I was at the Austin Film Fest mixer in LA and hear some panels and talk to fellow writers and directors. Finding a community of likeminded artists is so important for staying motivated.
Sunday night also is the last-minute polish for everything I’ve been writing during the week as my deadlines are all on Sunday night.
Mondays. Mondays I’m at Verve from 10-6pm, writing coverage, floating on assistant desks, helping the coordinators and anyone else in the office with any and all tasks. Afterwards, I rush back to campus to be on duty as an RA and stop all the parties in Webb (all zero of them so far, thank god), doing rounds and answering lock-out calls. I’m a zombie by my last set of rounds at midnight, but on a good night I try and stay awake long enough to make some Swedish pancakes or vegan waffles as a late-night snack.
Tuesdays. On Tuesdays I have my four hour pitching class, and I usually spend the day catching up on emails, going on a run, and working with the producers and AD’s and Jen to see what we need to get done for the upcoming weekend of shooting. On Tuesdays I try and work on my non-USC scripts because I turn in all my pages for assignments Sunday night.
As a proud introvert, I love my Tuesday mornings because I’m able to shut myself into my apartment or find a quiet spot on campus to fly through emails, paperwork, and other things on my to-do list. I think it’s important to set aside work time and protect it from distractions.
Wednesdays. Wednesdays I have over eight hours of classes, workshopping scripts and giving and receiving notes on the two television pilots I’m writing this semester: one for my thesis script, and one for a collaboration class myself and Jen are in with Professor Jack Epps. After that, straight back to Webb for my RA meeting, and then after that I’ll try and fit in another run and get some pages done for thesis.
Thursdays. Thursdays I have some time in the morning to get some laundry done, but then the rest of the day is spent trying to write upwards of 10-15 pages. Each week I have to average 20 pages in order to hit my deadlines, although this week it’s more like 40 pages because of scripts that are due. From 7-10pm, I have my Industry Seminar class where we talk about networking, representation, contracts, and go over things like our loglines and biographies and prepare for graduation and our careers beyond.
Recently Thursdays have also been the days Jen or I run to Film LA to pick up permits for filming around the city. Producing CON has a lot of unique challenges in that we constantly have to be running around getting things signed or submitted or picked up or returned.
Fridays. Fridays I’m back at Verve, and then if I’m not on duty after work I’ll come back and pick up gear and food for that weekend’s shoot if I need to, send out shooting and parking info to actors and key crew, and then try to fit in a few pages. I try and schedule something fun on Friday nights, like going out with my boyfriend Kurt or with my friends. Favorite spots to hang out/complete my minor in alcoholism include Wurstkuche, Far Bar, Angel City Brewery, and anywhere that isn’t the 901 by USC. Then the next day it’s back to filming!
shooting people and also (actually) shooting people (who gets murdered?? find out this season on CON)
How To Time Manage
There have been times this semester where I struggle through all-nighters (and failed all-nighters), falling apart when it seemed like I just wouldn’t get everything done. After a particularly rocky start, I finally was able to figure out how in god’s name I could handle a calendar that looks like this:
But this calendar? I do this to myself. And I make it work. Because as an aspiring showrunner, I know that if I want to work in this industry I need to juggle a million things and do it efficiently.
Here’s how to manage your time when you have none:
- PRIORITIZE OR DIE. What do you have to do right now? Understanding what needs to be done when and how long things take you to accomplish will change everything. I know that urgent production things for CON need to be done first as often we have to deal with different offices and need to get things done during business hours, and my writing is a close second only because I can stay up until 2am writing pages. Essentially, if you don’t prioritize and be cognizant of deadlines, you could be getting a ton of things done and still dropping the ball on the important stuff because you aren’t prioritizing.
- Check emails only morning, lunch, and night. Unread emails are fun shiny things and right now I’m actually waiting to *hopefully* hear good news over email. It’s hard for me not to sit at my computer and just hit refresh over and over again, but I know that this is such a productivity sap. Get your inbox cleaned out at the beginning and end of the day and try to keep your writing and work sessions email-free!
- Surround yourself with an amazing team. There is absolutely no way I could produce an entire television miniseries by myself and have it be any good. It’s just not possible. Filmmaking is a team sport, and I’m lucky to work with an amazing team of over 80 cast and crew members who are the reason why we’re able to pull of a show of this magnitude. They’re some of the best and brightest at USC and I owe everything to them.
- Set weekly goals. Each week I set out to write between 20-30 pages, exercise 3-4 times a week, and get other script-related and USC-related work done, which changes week-to-week. Finding a focus each week (like rewriting a particular script) helps with the prioritizing and also ensures that I’m not jumping from task to task and script to script without finishing anything.
- Enjoy the pressure. By working at a talent/lit agency, I’ve learned from the assistants how to not only work under pressure, but how to thrive in it. Not only that, but realize that the way you handle yourself today affects the way people perceive you and the opportunities available to you tomorrow. Also, coffee solves everything.
In the end, it’s all about just making it work or cutting things out of your schedule until you can. Being “busy” is never an excuse, I’ve learned — we’re all busy, but we all have the same hours in the day to try and accomplish what we’ve set out to do.